BART plans for easier exits with updated design

The awkward squeezing on and off of crowded BART trains should be a thing of the past when the transit agency updates all 669 of its train cars in the next decade.

As part of its 25-year, $11.4 billion improvement plan for the system, the train cars will be replaced over the next 10 years with each car having three doors rather than the current two on each side.

The additional door would allow for faster loading and unloading at stations, a much needed upgrade, according to officials. The system is expected to carry 400,000 riders daily by 2017, 50,000 more than current average daily ridership.

The rail system this fiscal year has had ridership highs of more than 380,000 daily trips on June 13 and a total of 101.7 million trips over the course of the year, according to BART officials.

By 2030, BART expects its total number of daily trips to grow by 35 percent, or 28.5 million, with the trains logging more than 200 million vehicle miles of daily travel, according to a BART report.

Bob Franklin, member of the BART board of directors, said the current trains were designed in the 1970s, when the system wasn’t crowded and the cars were designed for each person to have a seat. The cars have some of the widest seats in the industry, which cuts down on aisle space, he said.

“If you’re stuck in the middle and you’re fighting to get off, we need to have three doors to accommodate more people,” Franklin said.

The trouble is that the cars cost roughly $3 million each and need to be special ordered because BART rails are slightly wider than the industry standards. At 669 cars, the total cost is approximately $2.1 billion to replace the fleet, Franklin said.

“It’s not next year, but in 10 years, things aregoing to start going bad,” Franklin said. “If one car breaks down, and it’s in a strategic place, the whole place could back up.”

“We need to preserve our reliability,” he added.

The 25-year plan is only about half-funded at $6 billion, and officials are working on finding solutions to fund the remainder, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.

The transit agency has already begun working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to set aside funds to replace the train cars, MTC’s John Goodwin said.

The MTC has also agreed to put aside $90 million through 2009 to help with the replacement effort, Goodwin said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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